Post-16 Pathways

What’s the difference between BTECs and A Levels?

Broadly speaking, BTEC qualifications start to prepare you for a specific career, whereas A Levels aim to give you a solid academic grounding in a given subject. However, some BTECs can be quite academic too, depending upon the subject and the specific modules that colleges choose to teach. BTECs revolve around coursework and – often – work experience, whereas A Levels are much more classroom-based and tend to be assessed largely via final exams.

A key difference is that a BTEC provides a way to learn through practical work as well as study, while an A Level course structure typically involves more written work and exams.

A Levels

Advanced Level qualifications (known as A Levels) are subject-based qualifications that can lead to university, further study, training, or work. You can normally study three or more A Levels over two years. They are usually assessed by a series of examinations at the end of Year 13.

What grades do I need to take A levels?
Choosing A Level subjects
Who are they for?


BTEC stands for the Business and Technology Education Council. BTECs are specialist work-related qualifications. They combine practical learning with subject and theory content. There are over 2,000 BTEC qualifications across 16 sectors – they are available from entry level through to professional qualifications at Level 7 (equivalent to postgraduate study).

The different types of BTEC
How do they work?
Who are they for?

What are T Levels?

T Levels are new two-year courses equivalent to three A Levels.

T Levels are based on the same standards as apprenticeships, designed by employers, and will offer around 1,800 hours of study over two years. This will include a 45-day work placement, so T Levels will be more suited to students who know what occupation or industry they want to move into.

T Levels include compulsory elements:

  • a technical qualification which includes core skills, theory, and concepts for the industry area
  • specialist occupational skills and knowledge of the career
  • an industry placement with an employer
  • a minimum standard in maths and English, if students haven’t already achieved this

How are T Levels graded?
What T Level subjects are available?

Levels of an apprenticeship

It can take between one and six years to complete an apprenticeship depending on which one you choose, what level it is and your previous experience. It’s funded from contributions made by the government and your employer.

Each apprenticeship has a level and an equivalent education level. You can start an apprenticeship at any level.

Depending on the level, some apprenticeships may:

  • require previous qualifications such as an English or maths GCSE
  • give extra training in the English or maths skills needed so you’re at the right level

At the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll achieve the equivalent education level. For example, if you complete a Level 3 apprenticeship, you’ll achieve the equivalent of an A level.

Apprenticeship Level Equivalent education level
Intermediate 2 GCSE
Advanced 3 A Level
Higher 4, 5, 6 & 7 Foundation degree and above
Degree 6 & 7 Bachelor’s or Master’s degree